The purchasing process in the BVI remains a gentle process, just like learning to relax, learning to appreciate people and their heritage, culture and conversation, like learning to say “Good mornin”, “Good afternoon” or “Good night”.
A Caribbean vacationer’s first impression of the islands is often focused on the unspoiled natural beauty, but as time passes they realize there is more to these enchanted islands. After a few days of gazing at the stars at night through pure fresh air, floating silently on crystal clear waters of various shades of blue, stretching sun-soaked bodies across warm soft sand, cruising to various white sandy beaches, or diving/ snorkeling amongst a kaleidoscope of tropical fish, one gradually begins to finally relax and let go of the “rat race” mentality often found in Western or European cultures.
There is the feeling of family, that can not be found elsewhere easily. It is a “lay back” charm, which is part of an island culture that one grows to appreciate over days, weeks and months. The people of the islands have a genuine desire to connect on a more personal level, and once that connection is made, unique “island family” ties are formed. A quality of life, influenced by relationships with others within the island’s indigenous community, becomes the core of their existence. As these genuine ties are formed, foreigners eventually decide to purchase a home or land to build on, as they wish to join this island community, their “home away from home.”
Why the purchasing process takes time
Purchasing will usually take about 3 to 6 months, provided the paperwork is all in order, and most efficiently brought to completion by having a BVI Solicitor help process the paperwork alongside an experienced real estate firm, who can help channel and chase.The application process is not really complicated, it just has various steps required along the way. Part of the process is designed to help protect the island people and their inheritance, wherein the property will be advertised for 4 weeks in a local newspaper at the negotiated price, so a BVIslander (Belonger) will have the opportunity to purchase their country back at a price that the owner was willing to accept. If no Belonger comes forward, then the application is submitted and the process begins.
Non-Belonger Holding License
All foreign investors, including citizens of the United Kingdom are required to obtain a Non-Belonger Holding License (NBLHL) to purchase property in the BVI. Agreements to purchase property are therefore made contingent upon a license being obtained by the purchaser. A License gives entitlement to own a specific property. An overseas investor who wishes to rent their property will need permission to rent granted on their NBLHL, thereafter one can apply for a Trade License to commence renting their property. Neither Purchaser nor Vendor need be present in the BVI at any stage of the transaction.
At closing, a Non-Belonger Purchaser is required to pay 12% stamp duty on the Purchase price or the appraisal price (whichever is higher) for both leasehold and freehold property. A Belonger will pay a 4% stamp duty which is less because they are already contributing in other ways to the government employment taxes. This one time stamp duty is used by the BVI Government to provide for various forms of infrastructure within the country, such as police, social services, roads, waste management, schools, etc. This stamp duty is reasonable for all the services a Purchaser(s) will be benefiting from, over the course of time they own their home.
Annual land and house taxes are nominal. Land Tax is assessed annually at the rate of $50 for sites up to 0.5 acre, $150.00 for sites between 0.5 and 1.00 acre and $50 for each additional acre or part thereof. House Tax at the rate 1.5% of the assessed annual rental value, are levied. In practice this means that for an average 2 or 3 bedroom house the annual taxes will be less than $500.00 per acre.
Leasehold and Fee Simple
Leasehold property are taxed at a lower rate with various terms and conditions. The majority of land in the BVI is owned in fee simple. A purchaser will normally acquire absolute title which is registered in the BVI Government land Registry. Registered titles relate to a detailed cadastral survey which defines legal boundaries. No transfer of land can take place unless the boundaries of the property have been determined to the satisfaction of the Registrar of Lands. Property in the BVI may also be held on long lease from the Crown or private individuals. Most often the duration of such leases is 99 years. For practical purposes a purchaser of such a leasehold interest will enjoy all the benefits of an absolute title for the duration of the lease.
Purchase of a property in the BVI does not in itself establish resident status. However an identification card is available to a person who holds a Non-Belonger Land Holding License which will allow the holder to be granted leave to land in the BVI for a period of up to six months. A certificate of residence, entitling the holder to land or embark in the Territory for an indefinite period, may be granted to a person who intends to reside permanently in the BVI.
Development in the BVI is governed by Land Development Control Authority who are concerned with planning matters and by the Building Authority who are responsible for ensuring that the building conforms with the building code guidelines. It is preferred that working drawings submitted to these authorities are prepared by architects based in the BVI.
If you are ready to consider a purchase, we are here and ready to help guide you through the process, making your dream a reality, your “home away from home” in the BVI.